Hipsters and the library technology backfire.

This isn’t concrete proof of anything, but it echoed some concerns that I have, raised in a recent article in the New Review of Academic Librarianship, entitled “The Information and Learning Commons: Some Reflections”:

These so-called “digital natives” are the first generation to grow up with computers and the Internet. Chances are that they do not remember the first time they used a computer. Many regularly use computers for both school and entertainment. P. Ragains describes the Millennial generation as having “grown up around computers their entire lives and spent all of their teen years searching the web [and] armed with superior technical skills” (35). Nonetheless, the digital divide remains a significant issue, even among members of the supposedly technologically savvy Millennial generation. Charles Becker strongly rejects this notion of Millennials as “digital natives.” He calls it “a dangerous myth and a primary example of how labeling a generation is a disservice” (350). Maureen E. Wilson agrees and adds that “technologically disadvantaged” students, who are frequently first-generation college students and often come from working-class families, may have much less access to technology than their peers, which can hinder them in their educational pursuits (66). Research supports this assumption by finding that similar percentages of Americans from the 19 to 29 age bracket (83%), the 30 to 49 age group (82%), and the 50 to 64 age group (70%) use the Internet (Britton 4). Contrary to the generational stereotype, a significant number of Millennials arrive at college without the basic technological understanding required to function in the university environment.

Becker, Charles H. (2009) Student Values and Research: Are Millennials Really Changing the Future of Reference and Research?. Journal of Library Administration49 , pp. 341-364.

Ragains, P. (2006) Information Literacy that Works: A Guide to Teaching by Discipline and Student Population Neal-Schuman , New York

Wilson, Maureen E. Coomes, Michael D. and DeBard, Robert (eds) (2004) Teaching, Learning, and Millennial Students. Serving the Millennial Generation. pp. 59-71. Jossey-Bass , San Francisco

Britton, D. B. (2007) The Digital Economy Fact Book 9th ed., The Progress and Freedom Foundation — Web. 3 Aug. 2010. <http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/books/factbook_2007.pdf>

But there’s something in the air. From hipsters observing hipsters, keep your ear to the ground:

The youngest subcultures seem to know that the internet is convenient and also that the internet is a nuisance. In defiance of those graduates of the earlier hipster generation who, aging, retooled themselves as messianic, internet-fetishistic prophets and publicists, children born as the 80’s advanced seem to have their birthright in perspective. –Mark Greif, Epitaph for the White Hipster, in What Was the Hipster?: A Sociological Investigation (p164-165)

Yes, citing youth subculture is likely not the best example, but in addition to the socio-economic reasons that a student wouldn’t be as technologically savvy, it’s also worth noting that technology, like other cultural products, are things that people use to define and explore their identities. Don’t be offended that they don’t use our online resources, it’s our own fault that we often aren’t paying attention and miss out on the big picture because we only react to those things which are nearest and dearest to us (budgets, vendors, the “literature”, our professional reputations). My advice is to go ride a fixie.

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